Fast Forwarding

A decade ago, I spent considerable time reading about what the folks at the Santa Fe Institute were doing.

These folks take advanced mathematics to a whole new level (compared to mere mortals like you or I).

I became acquainted with a pair of individuals at the Santa Fe Institute who were working on retail simulations. They developed a computer model that illustrated how customers walked through a store, with the trip culminating in a purchase, or the customer leaving the store. The simulation depicted dozens or even hundreds of simulated shoppers walking a simulated store.

Within the simulation, you could see what happened if the line at the checkout was too long, or if merchandise was sold-out in a department, or if the store was too crowded.

I asked these individuals to visit us at Eddie Bauer. I invited a team of peers and leaders to the presentation. The simulation developers shared the tool with the folks I invited to the meeting, using verbal language associated with the simulation software tool.

Eddie Bauer employees stared at the tool. One person said something like "How would you apply this tool to our business?" The meeting ended. There were no questions. I thanked the folks from the Santa Fe Institute for their time.

We never mentioned the meeting, or software tool, again.

When we watch television on our DVR, we skip commercials. We seldom skip all the parts between the beginning of a show, and the end of a show. What happens in-between is important to the conclusion of the show.

Similarly in business, we cannot fast forward our co-workers from where they are to where we want for them to be. Our job gets even harder when we have to fast forward ten employees, or a thousand employees, or fifty thousand employees. Sometimes we expedite the process, we "trump" individuals by having a leader point the organization in a certain direction. But at a grass roots level, fast forwarding is hard work.

Do you have examples of concepts you tried to evangelize in your business, only to find that the business wasn't ready to embrace your ideas? What did you do when you ran into obstacles?